Near miss incidents are the best opportunities from which to improve safety

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One of the most frustrating parts of being a safety professional is that “near misses” or “near hits” or “close calls”, as some refer to them, are often neglected even when these events are often the best to investigate as no one was directly injured.

The significance of the near miss may be illustrated by a court case and penalty from South Australia on 28 July 2011.  The media release states that Kyren P/L was fined over $A40,000 after a dogbox fell over 30 metres without anyone being injured. (The full court decision is available online)

“In August 2008 at a building site in Coglin St. Adelaide, an attempt to lift a fully-laden work box (known in the industry as a ‘dog box’) to the seventh floor ended catastrophically when the tower crane failed sending the dog box into a 30-metre freefall. It landed in the laneway separating the site from an adjoining business.  A plastic bin beneath was crushed.  Some hoarding was damaged, and there was minor structural damage to the guttering of a neighbouring building which housed a law firm.

The prosecution arose after the investigation determined that two employees of the law firm were at risk of harm because their duties required accessing rubbish bins in the laneway.  However the defendant had failed to declare Continue reading “Near miss incidents are the best opportunities from which to improve safety”

Quad bike safety is showing a political shift

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A young boy has died in a quad bike incident on an Australian farm last weekend.  What the boy was doing at the time of the incident is unclear and whether the quad bike was a work vehicle or recreational is also unclear, but the current sensitivities of the issue of quad bike safety have raised media attention once more.

In this week’s edition of The Weekly Times, the motorcycle manager of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Rhys Griffiths, seems uncertain of the type of safety measures being considered for quad bikes by manufacturers.  He is reported as saying

“…. research and development spending and direction was a “closely guarded secret of each manufacturer”.

“My guess is they may be spending money on things like active suspension, which helps the stability of the ATV. But a roll bar or crush bar is probably not under development.”

Since quad bike safety advocates began producing robust research to add to the existing safety evidence, the FCAI seems to have been on the back foot a little by reacting instead of proposing change.   Continue reading “Quad bike safety is showing a political shift”

Business groups have different stances on harmonisation issues

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The politics of the Australian print media may be illustrated by an article in The Australian Financial Review (AFR) (only available through subscription or hard copy) on 27 July 2011 that, essential contrasts yesterday’s article in The Australian.

Today’s AFR article places the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) in contrast to the ACCI and the NSW Minerals Council over the implementation timetable on OHS harmonisation.  Mark Goodsell of AiGroup said in the AFR that all parties have been able to voice their concerns throughout this three year review process:

“So we would be very disappointed if there was a fracturing of commitment to harmonisation or if the timetable was pushed out.”

The objection to an extension of time places AiGroup in opposition to the WA Government’s Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien. Continue reading “Business groups have different stances on harmonisation issues”

Harmonisation timetable stoush

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The Australian newspaper has reported serious threats to the Australian Government’s timetable for the harmonisation of OHS laws.  A threat to the government’s strategy was always possible from the fact that State government’s were likely to change from predominantly Labor Party States to Conservative parties over the period of harmonisation.  The Australian says that the threat is becoming a reality.

Western Australia, an unhappy participant in harmonisation, has begun questioning the deadline of 1 January 2012 for the introduction of harmonised OHS laws.  The WA government has been a consistent critic of some of the element s of the process but, to some extent, the latest statement from West Australia’s Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien could be interpreted as a willingness to sign up to the changes if more time for implementation is granted.

O’Brien and the WA government may be receiving some support from political colleagues in Victoria going by the comments from the Victorian Government.  In an almost unique acknowledgement of the harmonisation process a spokesperson said:

“The focus of developing a national OHS framework should be not on harmonisation for harmonisation’s sake, but rather on achieving beneficial outcomes, both for the nation as well as Victoria…..In addition, any harmonised national OHS framework must not result in increased compliance costs and more onerous regulations.”

The mention of national interest aligns well with WA’s objections. Continue reading “Harmonisation timetable stoush”

Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash

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The Australian newspaper reports today (26 July 2011) of a clash between the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) and BHP Billiton over fatigue management.  Fatigue management is one of the workplace hazards scheduled for a draft code of practice under the OHS harmonisation process.

The CFMEU believes that the current mining-related guidance  is inadequate.

“The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the government buckled under industry pressure and abandoned plans for binding industry standards that would minimise the risk of workers doing successive 12-hour shifts and then driving long distances on public roads.”

The flaw in the CFMEU’s campaign is that it has been selective in its choice of fatigue documentation.  Looking at the industry sector rather than the hazard or risk limits the hazard control options.  In the current case the CFMEU is not acknowledging many of the fatigue guidancesand documents that are available from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland or from some of the other States and even from overseas as this Safe Work Australia document from 2006 shows.

In fact the narrow selection of guidance in this instance makes a strong case for greater collaboration in the development of information across industry sectors and State jurisdictions – one of the aims of harmonisation. Continue reading “Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash”